A workshop was held at Balaclava on 13 October, to showcase sustainable alternative livelihood projects funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under the Emergency Response to the Wakashio Oil Spill in Mauritius programme. Implemented by five NGOs to support communities impacted by the 2020 oil spill, the programme supported activities such as marine ecosystems and fauna conservation, sustainable fishing practices, agroecology, and aquaponics.
Ms Amanda Serumaga, UNDP Resident Representative for Mauritius and Seychelles, stated that the UNDP recognized the need to collaborate with communities and organisations to support resilience and early recovery from the impacts of the MV Wakashio oil spill on families who were also doubly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ms Serumaga said “As part of the UN system, UNDP was part of the rapid response which included direct community engagement through focus group discussions in the villages”. The UNDP Resident Representative added that these interactions with the communities provided insight into their needs and revealed strong commitment and will to be more resilient to shocks through grassroots and sustainable solutions.
Acknowledging the contribution of the UNDP-GEF-Small Grants Programme through projects previously approved for 3 of the 5 NGOs involved and facilitation of dialogue between the Government and the civil society, Ms Serumaga thanked all the NGOs present for their support in empowering communities and expressed her hope for scaled-up collaborative partnerships between the UNDP and civil society organisations.
Reviewing the different aspects of the programme, Mr Parmananda Ragen, project manager, shared that the UNDP continues to assist the local government and impacted communities to recover from the oil spill and become more resilient through a series of complementary measures. These include a review of the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan; assistance to the Mauritius Police Force to procure new equipment to improve operational capabilities of response teams in the face of future challenges; and support to the Food and Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (FAREI) for capacity building and start-up assistance related to organic crop and broiler production to communities affected by the Wakashio oil spill.
The presentation of sustainable alternative livelihoods projects carried out by the 5 NGOs highlighted the negative impact of the Wakashio oil spill on employment in the South East community already affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eco-Sud : Resilient Organic Community
Based in Ville Noire, Eco-Sud’s Resilient Organic Community Farming project provided agroecology training to groups of residents from impacted villages for a period of six weeks. According to Sebastien Sauvage, CEO of Eco-Sud, 76% of the training attendees were unemployed when they joined the initiative which also provided social assistance. He stated that the primary motive of the project beneficiaries remains the ability to earn a living after their training. As of September 2021, 271 individuals had benefited from the project, both directly and indirectly. A beneficiary of the project in attendance stated that the agroecology training enabled her to grow crops for her own kitchen, saving around Rs 500 per week, and for sale in her neighborhood.
Marine Megafauna Conservation Organisation : Protecting marine megafauna and training professional divers
The Marine Megafauna Conservation Organisation (MMCO), which offered professional diving courses to inhabitants of the South-East, noted that 14 out of the 19 beneficiaries were unemployed at the start of their programme. Svetlana Barteneva, Biologist in charge of MMCO Scientific Works and Reports, stated that MMCO provided Level 2 scuba diving certification as per CMAS standards, theoretical lessons on marine ecosystems, and practical sessions related to blue economy activities. According to her, 10 beneficiaries found new jobs in diving centers and fish farms on completion of the programme.
Caritas: empowering families through sustainable aquaponics
Caritas Ile Maurice identified seven families to run aquaponic farm systems under a project entitled Capacity building and Economic Empowerment of Wakashio-afflicted communities through sustainable aquaponics. The beneficiaries, who previously earned their livelihoods from sea-based activities, are now expected to produce 25 organic lettuces and other green crops and 4 pounds of chemical-free fish per farm on a weekly basis. The long-term aim of the sustainable aquaponics project is to set up a cooperative for full-fledged production and commercialization in addition to satisfying the farmers’ needs.
Trou d'Eau Douce Fishermen Cooperative Society : promoting sustainable fishing and best practices
The Trou d’Eau Douce Fishermen Cooperative Society benefited from UNDP’s support to acquire new appropriate equipment and for the refurbishing of a new building to house their cooperative. The aim of the cooperative is to sensitise the fishing and non-fishing community on the significance of sustainable fishing practices by developing and enforcing a chart of best practices.
Reef Conservation : SOS Mangroves
Reef Conservation’s SOS Mangrove programme focuses on monitoring mangroves both impacted and not impacted by the Wakashio oil spill along the South-East coast, restoring mangrove ecosystems through community engagement, and educating communities on the ecological importance of mangroves. With the help of UNDP, a new pedagogical guide on mangroves was developed and used on a pilot basis with 37 students from the Mahebourg Espoir Educational Centre. New equipment and material, including tablets, were also purchased to support the implementation of educational progammes and mangrove surveys under the initiative. As of August 2021, 51 adults and 52 students had benefited from sensitization sessions along the South East coast.